This is a follow up story for Chasing Planner Peace. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published about 1 year ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
Hi, I’m Jess from Tasmania, and I own Chasing Planner Peace. We offer refillable, customizable planner solutions for busy people. We also sell a wide range of other stationery products like notepads, pens, notebooks, kids' planners, and more.
It started as a side-hustle on Etsy while I was pregnant with my third child and is now my full-time job, with two part-time employees.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
Yes! When COVID hit, I think every small business owner around the world was extremely nervous about what it would mean. At this time, Australia was just starting to recover from horrendous bushfires as well and our business virtually stopped entirely mid-way through February 2020. In March, my assistant sent me a message saying she would understand if I couldn’t afford to keep her on anymore. And I don’t know if you remember, but there were all these memes floating around about how a 2020 planner was such a waste of money! However, by May we were starting to see a huge uptick in our business and 2020 ended up being our most successful year ever. In fact, many of my friends who also run online businesses found they had a great year in 2020 as so many people were staying home and shopping online.
I’ve always said to not worry about being perfect, and just have a go. Just get in there and don’t worry about your logo too much, or your photos, because these will improve with time and you’ll never get them right first off anyway!
Also, we launched so many new products and improved on old products, and became much more efficient in our order processing. So overall, 2020 ended up being really great for us in terms of business. Other specific things we did were:
- Really upping our Facebook ads budget and outsourcing this to a professional.
- Launching a kids planner that has been one of our most popular products
- Increasing the number of subscription “Planner Peace” boxes we send out every 2 months, allowing for an extra revenue injection regularly
- Using Instagram influencers to reach new customers - we are so grateful to the influencers we’ve worked with.
- Launching a “build your own bundle” functionality on the website means customers can actually build their own perfect planner by choosing from our covers, dividers, and insert options. I don’t think any other store in Australia has this option - so it’s really unique for us.
- We’ve also worked on our email flows. We’ve set up email flows where customers are nurtured throughout their journey with us and encouraged to come back and shop with us again.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
To prepare ahead of time. Too many times in the past year I’ve been chasing my tail catching up on orders and then special events have cropped up that we haven’t been ready for. This year, we sat down early in the year and planned the whole year out, and started organizing products and designs well in advance.
A really good example, that still hurts when I think about it is, we completely sold out of planner covers mid-way through 2020. We get these manufactured for us in China, so we had to urgently get them air-freighted to us, instead of sea-freight that takes 6+ weeks. The amount of money we had to spend on air-freight completely negated any profits we might make on them. However, we decided that the best thing to do to remain professional was to keep our products on offer and we had to just “suck it up”.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
We are never short on plans and ideas! The problem is the number of hours in the day (I’m sure most small-business owners can relate). We want to overhaul our current range as some of the insert designs are now getting a little tired.
Long term, I want to be able to step back a little and have a day off, or a week off, knowing that my staff can fill orders without me. Unfortunately, the way I’ve set up my processes is a bit complicated in terms of training others, but that’s a goal to resolve.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
I tend to read fiction and listen to true crime podcasts! However, my favorite business podcast continues to be “How I Built This” hosted by Guy Raz. Listening to how some really huge brands started is fascinating!
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
Since our story was featured on Starter Story I’ve had several people reach out to me for advice. I’m not sure I have any great advice to give. I’ve always said to not worry about being perfect, and just have a go. Just get in there and don’t worry about your logo too much, or your photos, because these will improve with time and you’ll never get them right first off anyway!
I worked with a business coach at the end of 2019/beginning of 2020 and it was really great to get a clear picture of where I wanted to head with the business. If you already have a business and you’re struggling, perhaps coaching is a good idea. The other areas I see people struggling with are:
- Is your website is professional and easy to use? It’s well worth paying for a premium Shopify theme and perhaps asking friends and family for feedback.
- Is your product unique and well priced?
- Are your photos professional?
- Are you following up with customers via email to encourage them to come back to you?
- Are you posting on social media every day?
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Not right now, both my fabulous employees have told me they’d love more hours so my priority is to them if we continue to grow (which I hope we do!)
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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